ByKristin Lai, writer at
MP Staff Writer, cinephile and resident Slytherclaw // UCLA Alumna // Follow me on Twitter: kristin_lai
Kristin Lai

I don't blame the filmmakers of today want to pay homage to some of history's greatest authors and try to put a modern twist on their literary classics. As much as I complain about the remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, and adaptations, I also think that some of these stories deserve to be shown on the silver screen. First, because the medium wasn't available to the artist at the time. Second, because these are stories that have really stood the test of time, and deserve to be revisited every once in a while.

We recently saw io9's article on the first images of familiar literary monsters, and it got us to thinking how do the earliest images hold up against some of the most modern cinematic versions of themselves? Let's find out!

Dracula - Dracula

While Bram Stoker's famous vampire novel was published in 1897, this first image comes from the cover of the 1901 paperback edition, which Stoker approved himself. He looks pretty different in the book than what we comes to mind when we think of Dracula today.

Hotel Transylvania/Sony
Hotel Transylvania/Sony

Look at Drac, swooping down that castle wall with his creepy feet and bat-cape. That's a pretty sweet bat-cape. But how does this original drawing compare to 2014's bat-cape from [Dracula Untold](movie:917159)? I'd say this is origin story's take is definitely more modern, but they still included the sweet cape. I'd take either of these vamps over the Twilight characters any day.

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Jekyll and Hyde

This 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson was adapted for the stage so soon after its publication (only one year later), that some of the first images we have aren't illustrations, but real photographs. I guess if Stevenson had been given the option he might have been willing to put his story on screen. And I just have to say, this is a really cool picture.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde/Paramount Pictures
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde/Paramount Pictures

Like a lot of these stories, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde's character arc in the 2003 movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has little to do with Stevenson's. Luckily, we have the 1941 film version starring Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman to cover that. But check out that jacked frame! This Mr. Hyde could kick some serious butt.

A Picture of Dorian Gray - Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde's novel A Picture of Dorian Gray was originally published in 1891, but there weren't illustrations until the 1910 version, which included 6 wood engravings by Eugène Dété and Paul Thiriat. True, this is less of a monster and more of a man-turned-monster type situation, but we're just going to count Mr. Gray.

Dorian Gray/Momentum Pictures
Dorian Gray/Momentum Pictures

Fast forward to 2009 where we can see the lovely Ben Barnes portray the beautiful face of Dorian Gray (or now, with Reeve Carney playing him on [Penny Dreadful](series:817319)). I get it. He's so handsome that it looks like he might have sold his soul to the devil to be able to smoke opium without consequence. Is Barnes' soul trapped within a painting so that he will remain young forever? Only time will tell.

Frankenstein - Dr. Frankenstein's Monster

To be honest, Theodor von Holst's 1831 engraving of the creature was not at all how I imagined of Frankenstein's Monster, but it is actually closer to what Mary Shelley was thinking when she wrote the novel in 1818. Granted, the bolt-necked juggernaut that comes to mind largely stems from the 1931 film version. Or, if you're like me, then it came from the 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein.

Young Frankenstein/20th Century Fox
Young Frankenstein/20th Century Fox

The movie [I, Frankenstein](movie:311461) starring Aaron Eckhart came out earlier this year. I still haven't seen the movie, but from what I gather it starts off telling Shelley's story and then turns into a fantasy monster movie of it's own. He fights demons and such. Aaron might actually look more like Shelley's mental image than the image we muster when we think "Frankenstein's Monster."

War of the Worlds - Machines and Martians

Pearson’s Magazine first serialized H.G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds in 1897 it included some pretty awesome and detailed illustrations by Warwick Goble. John Guy Collick was lucky enough to find a set of these magazines and kind enough to share a few more of the images on his blog.

The machines look pretty similar, but the Martians of Steven Spielberg's 2005 film definitely look more threatening. I almost want to throw a Pokéball at Goble's version. "Tentacool, I choose you!"

The Lord of the Rings - The Nazgûl

Believe it or not, Tolkien did more than create The Lord of the Rings universe, he also helped illustrate it. Also a talented artist, he illustrated the first image of the Ringwraiths (aka The Nazgûl) on Two Towers' dust jacket. Here are the Ringwraiths riding on their Fell-beasts.

The Lord of the Rings/New Line Cinema
The Lord of the Rings/New Line Cinema

Tolkien's depiction of the Ringwraiths doesn't give us too much to work with, but I think that they were represented very well in Peter Jackson's film series. And that's all I have to say about that.

There have also been plenty more interpretations of these classic characters over the years, these were just the more modern cinematic versions. In the end, it's important to remember that book to film adaptations are always going to be different from what you pictured in your head. And it's certainly interesting to see how far these literary monsters have come over the years! If you'd like to go even further back and see the real-life people that these characters were based on check out this post.


Which did you prefer, the original illustrations or their modern movie makeovers?


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